Good News: Filipino Biologists Found Plastic-Eating Bacteria in Zambales

Could this lead to a long-term solution to our plastic problem?

(SPOT.ph) On March 15, a beaked whale was found dead on the shores of Compostela Valley, sparking public concern when 40 kilograms of plastic waste was found in its stomach. Single-use plastics are still commonly used in most places, adding to the ever-present plastic problem all over the world. But there might yet be some hope for us: Recently awarded with the International Publication Award, a study by Filipino biologists revealed the existence of a "plastic-eating" bacteria present in Zambales.

The research, by Denisse Yans dela Torre, Lee delos Santos, Mari Louise Reyes, and Ronan Baculi, was published in the Philippine Science Letters in 2018. The researchers discovered four strains of bacteria that are capable of biodegrading low-density polyethylene—a material commonly used in plastic packaging—which is typically resistant to the natural process of degradation.

According to the paper, the microorganisms were confirmed capable of using low-density polyethylene (LDPE) as a carbon source, degrading it "without thermal and oxidative pre-treatments." The bacterial strains were discovered from rock crevices of Poon Bato, a natural alkaline spring in Botolan, Zambales, that contains calcium, magnesium, sulfate, chloride, and iron.

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